Drunk driver who killed 'superhero' teen apologizes to family at sentencing hearing

The woman who killed a "superhero" teen while driving drunk asked the young man's family to forgive her during her sentencing hearing in a Calgary courtroom Thursday.

Jaylene Lagrelle killed Shiraz Shermohammed and injured 3 family members when she ran a red light in 2016

Shiraz Shermohammad, 19, (pictured) was killed by Jaylene Lagrelle, who was driving drunk on Oct. 23, 2016. (Facebook)

The woman who killed a "superhero" teen while driving drunk asked the young man's family to forgive her during her sentencing hearing in a Calgary courtroom Thursday. 

Jaylene Lagrelle, 30, pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of impaired driving causing death and four counts of impaired causing bodily harm.

Prosecutor Trevor Fik argued a fit sentence for Lagrelle is up to five years in prison while defence lawyer Alain Hepner proposed a two- to three-year sentence.

Shiraz Shermohammad, 19, died when Lagrelle ran a red light, travelling about 100 km/h in a 70 km/h zone. Her SUV crashed into the passenger side of Shermohammad's Kia.

Shiraz died at the scene. His parents and sister were all badly injured, as was one of Lagrelle's passengers.

Judge 'sick' of drunk drivers

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi — who will sentence Lagrelle next week — expressed frustration that nothing seems to deter drunk drivers. 

"I'm sick of hearing these cases," said Yamauchi. "I'm sick of hearing of people being killed by drunk drivers. It has to stop."

In arguing for his client to be placed in a Saskatchewan healing lodge so that she could have her toddler daughter live with her, Hepner said his client was "raised in a volcano of alcoholism."

Lagrelle lost two parents to liver cirrhosis and bounced around six foster homes because of alcohol abuse in her home. 

Extensive injuries

On Oct. 23, 2016, Lagrelle was drunk and driving a Dodge Journey on Metis Trail headed toward the intersection at Country Hills Boulevard N.E. when she ran the red light.

Shiraz's father Karim, 46, suffered a collapsed lung, broken hip, broken ribs and complete loss of hearing in his left ear. He has been unable to work since the crash.

In the same crash that killed her son, Soraya Shermohammad, 45, suffered a broken ankle, broken ribs, broken teeth and a head injury.

Mursal Shermohammad, 22, who is in a wheelchair and was described by a sibling as special needs, broke her femur in the crash.

In a victim impact statement written by a sibling, Mursal called Shiraz her "superhero" who would take her for walks, pushing her wheelchair and would lift her from the chair to bed or the family car. 

'So dear and loved'

Shiraz was beloved by his siblings who wrote victim impact statements read aloud by Fik.

Ali Shermohammad wrote about losing his older brother, "best friend, mentor … someone so dear and loved."

Sittara Shermohammad also called her brother her best friend.

"Who I'm going to share my secrets and laughs with?" she questioned.

"I lost my angel," Tahnaz Shermohammad wrote. She said she cries every night says she tries "to keep a smile on my face for the sake of family."

Ahead of delivering his sentencing decision next week, Yamauchi addressed the three members of the Shermohammad family who were in the courtroom gallery.

"We've been talking about prison sentences … that doesn't sound like a lot given that the life of your son, brother was taken and it isn't and I know that," said the judge.

"Nobody will bring your son or brother back but be assured when I said the word punishment, I meant punishment."

Lagrelle apologizes

Initially, the people in the SUV, including Lagrelle, lied about who was driving, telling police a man had been behind the wheel but had run away from the scene.

DNA from the airbag eventually placed Lagrelle as the driver and she also confessed to police. She was charged about a year after the fatal crash.

Lagrelle was given the chance to address the court and apologized to her victim's family for "the tragedy that I caused" and asked for the Shermohammads' forgiveness.

"I haven't touched a drop of alcohol since the accident," said Lagrelle through tears. "I don't ever want to drink again."

"I'm so sorry for everything, I'm angry at myself .. I wish I could trade spots, I would do it every day."

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.